March 11, 2010
Thank you for contacting me regarding your concerns about health care reform and the reconciliation process. I greatly appreciate hearing your thoughts on these important issues.
Each year, costs associated with our current health care system increase. North Carolinians are struggling to afford insurance coverage, and the unprecedented economic crisis facing our nation has made it still more difficult for working families to manage medical costs while making ends meet. In North Carolina alone, the number of uninsured has risen to approximately 1.8 million, which represents 22 percent of the state's population.
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, H.R. 3590, is a fiscally responsible plan that will reduce the deficit by nearly $118 billion in the next 10 years. I have heard from so many North Carolinians who are cut off from health care because of pre-existing conditions. Under this legislation, insurance companies will no longer be able to use 'pre-existing conditions' as an excuse to deny coverage. The bill expands coverage and lowers costs by focusing on prevention and cracking down on fraud and abuse in the system. Additionally, the legislation gives states the authority to form compacts to purchase health insurance across state lines and regionally.
When crafting the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the Senate went to great lengths to ensure that if you have a health insurance plan that you like, you can keep it. Also, the Senate legislation would require Members of Congress and their congressional staff to participate in the Exchange, where the uninsured and other eligible Americans will be able to obtain affordable health coverage.
I understand that you also have concerns regarding the use of reconciliation to pass legislation. The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 created the optional procedure known as the budget reconciliation process, with the chief purpose of enhancing Congress' ability to change current law in order to more effectively control our federal deficit. Under the two-stage process, reconciliation instructions are included in the budget resolution, directing the appropriate committees to develop legislation achieving the desired budgetary outcomes. Under budget reconciliation procedures legislation cannot be filibustered, meaning it only needs 51 votes to pass the Senate. Under regular order, 60 votes are required to end a filibuster. Reconciliation has been used several times in recent years, including passing the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the 2007 student loan interest rate reductions.
I believe that regular order is an effective tool to encourage and foster bipartisan cooperation in the consideration of legislation. It allows Senators to find common ground in solving problems facing our nation, through methodically developing and writing bills in committees, and vetting and amending legislation through spirited floor debates. For this reason, it is my strong preference that regular order be followed whenever possible and reconciliation should only be used as a last resort.
I will continue to work with my Senate colleagues and stakeholders throughout North Carolina to help pass pragmatic, comprehensive health care reform. To view the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, I encourage you to visit http://thomas.loc.gov/.
Again, thank you for contacting my office. It is truly an honor to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate, and I hope you will not hesitate to contact me in the future should you have any further questions or concerns.
Kay R. Hagan